“This is a dramatic improvement of safety throughout the country,” Perkins told reporters during a wide-ranging news conference in Baghdad yesterday.
He added that the country’s murder rates have dropped below levels that existed before the start of American operations in Iraq. In November, the ratio was 0.9 per 100,000 people.
Perkins said political progress has complemented the reduction in violence, citing the recent passage of two pieces of legislation that will help guide the future security and political relationship between Washington and Baghdad.
A recently concluded status-of-forces agreement stipulates that American combat troops will leave Iraqi cities by the end of June, and will withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011.
Perkins said the security deal will cause changes to the way the nations plan, coordinate and execute tasks together. “However, our mission, goals and commitments to the Iraqi people remain unchanged,” he added.
The other bilateral arrangement signed last week by President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was the Strategic Framework Agreement, which formalizes economic, diplomatic, cultural and security ties between the two nations.
“These agreements signal Iraq’s emergence from United Nations Security Council oversight and a return to Iraq’s rightful place within the international community,” Perkins said.
Providing an update on the changing composition of the multinational force, Perkins said forces from 19 countries have completed their missions serving “side by side” with Iraqi security counterparts and have departed the country in the past four months.
“These nations have accomplished much for the people of Iraq. They have trained and mentored Iraqis in everything from security techniques to literacy and public health,” he said. “It has been an honor for us to serve with these great coalition partners.”
The nations include Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Georgia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Poland, Tonga and Ukraine.